Saturday, April 8, 2017

Vandemonium (plus) Ann Magnuson 1987 Cinemax

A lost classic of early cable, this almost impossible to see Cinemax Special is AMAZING. I am a fan of Ann Magnuson, so my enthusiasm is expected and this is the project that endeared me to her early on. I recorded it on VHS and it now resides in a digitized crappy looking file on my computer. 

The story is that of a biker chick (Magnusson) on her way to the red-neck-orama (or something) with her boyfriend (Meatloaf) when she has a terrible accident and flies off the bike and into the world of van art. Trying to find her way home before the show start (Vulcan Death Grip - Also Magnuson) she meets version of Stevie Nicks, Gala Dali, Shirley Maclaine and a televangelist (also all played by Ann). The comedy special also has appearances by Eric Bogosian and Joey Arias as Salvador Dali(!). In the end the good fairy (also Magnuson) appears and tells her she had the power to get home all along. Oh and she has a talking bong throughout. 

So, yes, this 30 minute of WTF, art references and pop culture parody as only Ann can pull off. I, of course, made everyone I ever met watch this so they would understand why I would occasionally scream « ES SURREAL! » and demand to see the « pizza sex machina ». This may not be for everyone, but it’s wildly funny and out there. So why is is impossible to see now?

One reason this has fallen into obscurity might be it’s timing. It wasn’t broadcast at a time where Cinemax could have created a cultural phenomenon out of a 30 minute special from a New York performance artist. Another reason was it might have only been shown once because of some odd controversy from one of the jokes. This is all from my not very strong memory, but there were a lot of AIDS activists upset because the bong tells Ann who has just shook herself out of the televangelist character that they better get out of the TV van quickly « before they find out who we are and sentence us to an AIDS camp ». This was an especially sensitive time for people with AIDS… putting them (and all gay people) into camps was an actual plan the religious right was promoting. However, in another case of humourless and misguided outrage, the fact this was a joke bringing that to light and mocking it - not encouraging it was completely missed. Most of the special still dates well enough but I think this one problem will forever sink the chance of this brilliant special ever getting restored and up for sale again. 

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